The Sunshine Brothers brought the motion of the ocean to Sandbar last Saturday night with its island-loving tunes as part of the first annual New Noise Santa Barbara music festival. Sunshine Brothers kicked off the last night of the festival at Sandbar, followed by other bands Litmore, Matthew McAvene and culminating in Culver City Dub Collective.
Hailing from Santa Barbara, Sunshine Brothers, a seven-piece band, released its debut album, Live by the Sunok in the spring of 2008. A self-proclaimed “hippie-dippie band,” it takes its cue from our own little city right here on the Pacific, creating a style that fuses surf-rock beats and reggae horns.
At first glance, the band might seem out of place in the venue, where college football dominates the TV screens and employees are often decked out in game-day jerseys and tube socks. But appearances aside, Sandbar is used to Jamaican jams: It is home to weekly Reggae Tuesdays. The juxtaposition of the Rastafarian mood and the jocked-out State Street club only served to highlight the varying influences on the band, and the eclectic atmosphere of this town in general.
Led by Owen Plant, who performs the band’s lead vocals and plays acoustic guitar, Sunshine Brothers cruised into the darkly lit Sandbar and played like it was a sunny, Sunday afternoon at an oceanside Del Playa Drive backyard party. The band was very comfortable with the assembled audience, no doubt a result of its laid-back island mentality and its frequent performances in the area. The band opened at the West Beach Music Festival last month on Santa Barbara’s shoreline, and even though they were in a restaurant where the majority of attendees were of the middle-aged variety Saturday night, the Bros. still gave off the beach vibe with its Rainbow Sandals and persistent calls for rum.
Plant had a strong stage presence despite the incredibly small onstage space, but some other band members weren’t so fortunate. The bassist actually played the whole set from behind a stripper pole in the corner of the stage but that didn’t stop him from grooving. The brass section, including a trumpet, sax and trombone, played off to one side, but kept the audience’s attention with blaring solos. Christopher Tyng’s rhythm on the drums infected the crowd, filling the floor space in front of the stage. Co-songwriting with Plant, Tyng’s songs have been featured on both “Futurama” and “The O.C.”
The 45-minute-long set contained songs from both the band’s debut album and its forthcoming follow-up effort it’s been working on for the past two months. The sound ranged from poppy, wailing vocals about love to whistling to straight Patois (the Jamaican pidgin language). Plant himself migrated to this country from Jamaica, making the band’s toast to “peace and love” feel that much more authentic.
Nice touches like Tyng’s switch from the drums to the cajón, a box drum of Afro-Peruvian origin, complemented the reggae feeling.
Just as Rebelution created its own reggaeton sound in I.V., the Sunshine Brothers successfully bring their Jamaican surfboards and rum to the beach city of Santa Barbara. You can check them out at SOhO on Halloween if you want to experience some Marley love for yourself.